Monday, September 28, 2020

Good Job Bubba

In recent weeks I have been thinking about and looking for a writing mentor.  Someone to support me through the development of my writing skills and to coach me towards achieving my writing goals. I have done quite a bit of internet searching - through writing groups and associations and I’ve come out quite dismayed at the fees. You’d think that being a clinical supervisor and sometimes-mentor myself, I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am.  So then I began to think about being my own writing mentor. Sure, I know my writing (when I get good at it - he he) will need the critique of an experienced writer, but for now, I think I am going to give it a shot for myself. Memories of the many times I have said to people I supervise and those whom I have counselled, “what does the voice of your own knowing tell you?”, or “take a step back and supervise that situation yourself” (not that I think self-supervision or utilising the therapeutic voice within our-selves, is a substitute for the wise eye and mind of a qualified and skilled professional).  But there is a place and a time when self-support is what is right.  And, at the moment, a writing mentor’s fee is not in my budget.

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Sunday, September 27, 2020

My Bike, My Happy Place

Today I had to really make an effort to get my butt out the door and into the fresh air for some physical activity. Yeah I know right, it was a beautiful day here in Victoria and Monday to Friday I am there.  It's my routine.  But today, even in spite of the sunshine, I was on a slow footing.  Maybe I still have pandemic fatigue, maybe it's the covid brain fog everyone is talking about. Anyway, I eventually put one foot in front of the other, listened to the coach inside my head and before I knew it I was on my bike!

I was glad I was too, because not long in, I rode my way to my happy place. Wind blowing through my shirt, high vis vest unzipped and flapping like wings, legs burning on the up hill and laughing on the way down. It didn't take long before I was singing. Top of my lungs, water streaming from my eyes, pushing myself along a straight stretch like a bat out of hell, because I could. Because it was exhilarating, it was fun and I felt alive.  And, I couldn't be any further from the memory of how hard it was to get my butt on that seat in the first place.  

But, you know it wasn't just the combination of physical effort, the exhilaration of the flat stretch or the downhill fly, and being out in the fresh air in the good weather that made for the happy place I was in. It was so much more than that. It was the joy that I felt inside my heart and the nourishment it was giving my soul ( and all the dopamine and serotonin flowing round my body) that was making me feel so happy; so content, so at peace.  

Whats your happy place and how does it make you feel? 


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Monday, September 21, 2020

Self-care, A Daily Activity

As the restrictions of the pandemic continue (particularly here in Victoria), our mental health has increasingly become an issue of concern. In response, there have been a number of state and nationally funded initiatives established to support the negative impacts COVID-19 has on people’s mental health.
As a mental health professional I have had the privilege of supporting the development of some of these programs. I have also been witness to and involved in the support of many mental health clinicians and professionals as they work to support those in receipt of such programs. Mental health clinicians and professionals who, in the process of undertaking their work to support others, have themselves at times struggled with their own mental health and wellbeing.

Much of my work supporting mental health professionals and clinician’s during this time has been through processes such as de-briefing, clinical supervision and reflective practice forums (albeit via video-conferencing platforms or telephone). Providing spaces where clinicians and professionals themselves can talk about and offload the impact this pandemic, these restrictions (as they have come and gone and then come back again), their increased workloads, pressures on family life, juggling and managing the home-schooling of their children with their own jobs, sharing work spaces in the family home (often the kitchen table) with others in their families and all-the-while carrying increasingly demanding and heavy workloads.

In the first wave of the pandemic, (way back in March), so much of the territory was new (if a little weird). And within the novelty of establishing our workstations from home, understanding the rules of social distancing and the 4 or 5 reasons we could only leave our home for, we were all keen to do the right thing and for those first few months we had the energy to do this. As clinicians moved from office-based work with consumers to video and telephone platforms however, the need to understand and manage the changes to work practice and troubleshoot the problems that could (and did) occur using these mediums became apparent. In the third month of the first lock down I was part of a professional webinar panel looking at tips and strategies for using technology for mental health consultations. Clinical expertise was not enough to get clinicians through these changes and for many, it meant they also had to become technical experts.
Part of my own emphasis on that webinar panel was the importance of taking care of the clinicians. I felt the need to specifically highlight the importance of self-care, right alongside managing the technology platforms many were now using in caring for consumers. This was and still is something that I pay a great attention to - partly out of my own need to self-care, but also because much of my professional work takes me into the business of caring for the carers.
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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Look For The Silver Linings

There's no argument (perhaps except among those with their heads in the sand) - the last 6 months months has had devastating impacts, worldwide, as we have travelled and navigated our way through unfamiliar, uncertain and at times heart-breaking territory. Yesterday, I was in a discussion with colleagues about the week when the notion of silver linings was raised, and that alongside the experiences of the pandemic and the stage 4 restrictions, there have also been some good things happening

My colleagues example of his own silver lining was in the development and richness of his immediate family relationships. His point reminded all of us in the conversation of the blessings and the positives that have come from some of the negatives of this pandemic.  And, as many of you will echo - alongside the awful, the horrible, challenging and the sad, there have been some amazing and wonderful things that have occurred within peoples lives and communities.  So, I am inspired to pause, notice something about my own silver linings and reflect also on those common gains and positivities that bring us together as people, families, friends, work mates and even strangers in a time in which somedays it has been hard even, to see the sun when it shines, hear the birds when they sing, marvel at the full moon on a clear night and weed out the bad from the good.  But, a reminder that if all we see are the grey clouds and what we focus on is what we can't do in these restrictions, we risk missing the silver linings and the positives that can come from the negatives, the adverse experiences, the pain, the sadness and those things over which we have no control.  It's an ancient proverb - in every cloud there is a silver lining and no matter how bad the situation, there is always some good element to it. 

But, not everyone sees it this way, not everyone looks for the silver lining.  For some, it's the negative over the positive, its the dark over the light, the bad that's always there, the glass that's always half empty over the glass that's also half full. How about you? Do you look for what good you can make of the bad, or do you spend so much of energy in the grey cloud that you fail to see the lighter side of it, let alone the gold (or silver in this case) that can come with it?

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Stepping Away - Stepping To

A dear young friend of mine is about to make her first move from home and while this will no doubt be an exciting time, leaving the family home can also be an event that brings an amount of anxiety, nervousness and trepidation, right alongside the need to journey to greater independence.

For some people the departure from the family home and the stepping away is more of a gradual process, with many spending time back and forth from the houses of their partners, until the final move. For others it may be more like stepping away from that which is either no longer supportive, unbearable or worse still, abusive. Different motivations, in different circumstances.

Right now though, I marvel that in these uncertain economic times my young friend, her brother before her and many others have both the confidence and the financial capacity to go their own way.  Well done all of you.
But so too, a young person's leaving can be a momentous time for parents, particularly as they see their last one out the door.  There's movement in it for everyone. One door closes, another opens. In the instance, I am inspired by my beautiful friend's moving out event, to write this piece. 
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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Are You Okay

So, I just had 8 working days off. It was bliss. I started a blog, rode my bike, face-timed my grandson, spoke to my kids and their darlings and my nearest and dearest friends (on zoom).  I baked chocolate peanut cookies (and ate them), gardened, slept in and had lunch in the sun on my deck. Is there more that could make a break from work more blissful in this lock-down? Oh yes - I also walked on my beach (you know, the one I share with everyone else that lives in my part of the world).

But, getting back to my first day back at work (albeit in the front room of my house), I am glad I kept my roller-blades all these years, because at 8am I hit the ground running – rather, skating, and I spent most of my first day back in zoom and teams meetings - virtually back-to-back. 

Here's the thing though, not only did I notice how much had happened in 8 days (and how much I therefore needed to catch up on), but I noticed too, how much more work there is to do and how much stress some of my colleagues and others are under. Of course, not everyone is showing it (and perhaps not even feeling stressed (I want their strategies), but there's an awful lot happening in our work worlds at the moment and you know, only one person, in all of the 7 or 8 meetings I was part of today - mentioned (and bless him for wearing his R U OK t-shirt) that it was R U OK Day today. Today - of all the days through this pandemic. A day in honour and memory of Barry Larkin, who died from suicide in 1995 and the courage of his son, family and others since to champion the prevention of suicide through a simple question, RUOK?

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Just Before Dinner

I pulled myself up off the floor, away from the warmth of the fire, and knew that I just had to get outside. Through the window I could see daylight waning. Time was short - but I had lights! Scrambling to find my runners, mask, little head warmer to keep the wind from blasting into my ears, I made a dash to the shed, flicked on the new sparklers, clicked the helmet, a leg over (ha) and I was off!

Never thought I would love this so much and yet here I was, in my solitude, my element. Breezing gently down the first hill, the wind beginning to envelope my face – a welcome to the coming ride.  Round the corner, then up a slight gradient, past gardens, hedges, gum trees, more gum trees, a few empty houses. Gliding through this falling light, this quiet little place. And, silence.  

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Sunday, September 6, 2020

A Father's Day Reflection

Today social media is packed with tributes, love and gratitude for fathers - and rightly so. I know many fathers. My husband, my brothers, the father of my two sons, my eldest son, some of my nephews, cousins, uncles and many male friends and colleagues. All fathers, who should take a bow today for what they have done and still do – albeit sometimes in the shadow of mothers. 

Yet, like so many of my generation and indeed those older – this is a father’s day in which the tributes belong to other’s fathers; as my own father is no longer alive.  So, while wishing a happy father’s day to the dad’s I know, today I am drawn to reflect perhaps with more compassion than previously, on the man that was my father.

Earlier today as I rode my bike into the wind, it occurred to me that it is time to let go - to give to the universe and the great sky above, the angst I have had with my father all these years. So, my own tribute to both letting go of a worn out jacket that I no longer need and acknowledging some good things that were my father, here’s something I wrote.

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Friday, September 4, 2020

Tomorrow The Sun Will Rise

The way you feel today,
is the way you feel today.
Tomorrow things will be different.
I know today it might feel like there might not be a tomorrow, or
that things couldn't get worse, or
this is really bad,
or it feels like this has been forever.
But, it won't last - 
nothing does; there is always an end.

Good or bad,
circumstances will change.
So, take it for what it is, 
keep one foot in front of the other.
Keep marching, keep working,
even, keep hoping - if thats what helps you.
Just don't give up, 
do give in though - to the knowing that,
tomorrow the sun will rise. 

(inspired by my sister Libby)

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Starting Out

The first step, a new page.
Something different, unknown territory.
A new relationship, house, job, a diagnosis, a loss.
Starting a blog,
a pandemic.
How to do this - what to say?
What will be okay - what will be frowned on?
Will you like me - or think this is a waste of your time (let alone mine)?

We've all done it though - starting something new; going somewhere we've not r e a l l y been before (like the last 6-months).

Today I am making a commitment to starting this blog and giving myself the opportunity to share who I am, where I've been, what I see and what it all means to me, with You.

I am giving myself a go and my theme is that some little things in life are in fact quite big, quite awesome, stunning yet painful and potentially transformative - life changing.

From the childhood, the family and the country I ran away from as a 20 something - to 40 years later,  realising that it's that cup of tea I had yesterday in the sun outside with my husband and a flock of black cockatoos flying over,  or the last scrabble game I had with my mother, or the last time I helped my dying brother walk to the bathroom, or the faces my grandson use to make sitting in his high chair at dinner time  - or,

things I overhear people talking about -  at the pool last summer, or in the supermarket yesterday, or the witty and insightful things my grandson says at 5 that I struggle with at 60 +.  It's these things that matter. These seemingly small, insignificant and astonishing things that I want to share.  That, I think are worth sharing. 



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Why I Started This Blog

Because I believe I have something worth saying,

because I want to do something better with the summers I have left,

because I want to connect with others, and

I love the written word.

Words can be magical and powerful 

and writing is transformative. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A Surprise In The Day

There's always something to be grateful for – (a writing from the first lockdown)

Thank you, for giving me this moment, (with a few others who too were walking by on their way, through our allotted daily exercise)along the beach, 

when someone said - dolphins! they’re here! 

1,2,3!

So, take a picture, I did, for others to see,

How lucky I felt,

How precious it was,

How close you were, to me,

On the shore, almost 

at my feet.

Grateful for the break in the day,

and in the need to get away,

from the chore of working at my desk. 

I found something today, 

to delight in.

A reminder - that

for some, 

there is no coronavirus. 

- take nothing for granted.



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